As an alumnus in industrial design with a focus on multimedia, Mario Taddeiis one of the first designers in the world to have embarked on the path of virtual reality. “. In 1998 I wrote my thesis on one of the first VR headsets: I wanted to reconstruct the Castello Sforzesco as it was in Leonardo da Vinci's time, but it was still science fiction; the technology wasn't yet ready. The headsets gave people a headache, and the resolution of the images was still disappointing compared to what people expected.”
Twenty years later, the technology has caught up, and Taddei is again one of the first designers in the world to create a virtual reality station in a museum: it is located in Milan's Piazza della Scala, at the Leonardo 3 museum, of which Taddei was curator and co-founder.
"Nowadays the helmets are light and user-friendly. We can see things in very high resolution, in photorealism, so we can truly make virtual museums an immersive experience. At his exhibitions, for the first time, it is possible to visit the scene of the Last Supper recreated as it must have been at the time of Leonardo da Vinci:: the visitor puts on his helmet and immediately finds himself back in 1500, in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. He can move around inside, and observe the parts that no longer exist today, such as the ceiling and the side walls painted by Leonardo.”
Taddei is engaged in historical research and dissemination through virtual reality, thus combining history and technology: “Studying and reconstructing history with virtual reality allows us to travel back in time to see and touch things that are no longer in existence today,”, he continues, as he tells of his reconstruction of the Battle of Anghiari and the Salone dei Cinquecento at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, which was presented to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death. At the behest of the Chinese government, Taddei is also working on reconstructing a section of the Forbidden City.
"The Forbidden City, as its name suggests, is a place that can only be visited from the outside: the interior is closed to tourists. Virtual reality will allow you to go inside, admire the earthquake-proof Chinese architecture of the year 1000 and its marvellous joints; moreover, with the VR controller, you will be able to touch and handle artefacts that today are absolutely inaccessible. For the first time, visitors can pick them up, rotate them, hold them in front of their eyes, even break them if they want to. The only thing that beats virtual reality is going there in person, and not always either: in VR you can interact with the artefact in ways that would not be possible in real life".
The world of virtual museums, and virtual reality in general, is expanding and opening the door to many completely new professions: designers, programmers, architects, set designers specialised in VR, modelling experts..
The work behind this technology is extremely complex and the devices are not easy to operate for an untrained user: it takes specialised technicians to customise each use. "For now it is only seen in a few museums. But the day is not far off when anyone with a visor will be able to purchase a virtual visit to the Forbidden City,, the Louvre, the Uffizi Gallery or the International Space Station from an online store, without having to queue, and with the opportunity to enjoy experiences that are unimaginable in person. We are very close; a matter of a couple of years at the most.
Virtual art is Taddei's chosen field of study, and he has published the essay“Leonardo da Vinci is dead!”, which has just been published on Amazon. It discusses digital art and NFT, an informative overview of this technology with disruptive potential in the digital art world.
"The same issues that faced both Michelangelo and Leonardo on the (absurd and sometimes paradoxical) concept of copyright are even more relevant in the digital world. The book is supposed to make us reflect on the fact that the artists of the past are dead, and it is the contemporary ones that an investor should look to; and, just as our old masters used the best of the technology available to them, so do today's artists".
Taddei will be one of the first to explore the new profession of virtual art curator: “My Politecnico studies are useful to me once again, particularly those relating to usability, ergonomics and proprioception. . I cannot send just any user into an environment that he is not used to. Using the example of the virtual museum, how do you move between the different rooms? Do you walk, or teleport yourself by pushing a button? In itself, the virtual environment does not need fixed rules: there is no need for floors, natural light, and physics can be tricked. But our body does need them, otherwise we feel ill, nauseous, dizzy, even panicky. Everything is possible, but not everything is tolerated by our nervous system. To make virtual reality usable for everyone, the rules of the physical world we are used to must be applied. . This also applies to the ability to take trips, have experiences, take virtual lessons remotely, that are indistinguishable from the real experience”.
Taddei is also a digital artist: "The work I am most fond of has a digital character all of its own. It's not like the others... it has been around for 16 years!". Sponge, created in 2004, is a dynamic digital form whose geometric structures change on three planes of symmetry.
"Its original form resides in a fourth (temporal) dimension and manifests itself just as a three-dimensional object would in our 3D space, i.e. it takes on different forms as it crosses its planes of symmetry".
In other words, it lives, according to the artist's intentions, within software. "I am fond of it because it could be considered the oldest living digital art form to date; it has been living in a PC for 16 years. . Even if the power goes off now and then, it comes back to life where I left it. In 2006 it was featured in several art magazines, and in 2013 it was exhibited in various galleries in Italy in both digital and real form, through 3D printing. In 2021, it became an NFT and became part of the Neoart3 Virtual Museum”.
His works are exhibited all over the world: for example, the contemporary art museum Yellow Box Art in Quingdao, China, has dedicated an entire section to him: "I have never been there physically, in person, and this is also one of the many revolutions that digital technology has taught us. I transferred my digital works, my images, 3d models and videos via the internet. The museum printed them and installed them in an exhibition that I curated from the comfort of my workshop in Neoart3, on the other side of the globe.
“Oggi lavoro come architetto curatore di mostre e musei virtuali e collaboro con uno dei grandi galleristi di Milano, Deodato, con il quale stiamo preparando in anteprima mondiale una mostra virtuale che presenteremo ad ottobre e che collegherà arte e tecnica, passato e presente con la tecnologia odierna della realtà virtuale”.